The inseparable histories of sports and unity

The inseparable histories of sports and unity

The inseparable histories of sports and unity
February 07
23:04 2017

When nothing else can, in the midst of tragedy and political unrest, sports possess the power to unite, inspire and change the world.

Sports as we know them today derived from ancient Greece – Olympia to be exact. The Olympic games were constructed as a religious commemoration in honor of Zeus, the king of the gods. They were held every four years, and citizens from all over Greece would make the trek to participate.

Being in attendance was a way to flaunt your socioeconomic status, as business owners came to conduct trade, entertainers came to delight and politicians came to give speeches.

According to the Ancient Civilization Online Textbook, “leaders from various city-states discussed important political and economic matters” during these Olympics. Seldom would politicians meet in the same place, but as the Olympic games approached “everyone generally agreed to an Olympic truce, a time where warfare and conflict usually ceased.”

Sports were essential to this democracy, and if it weren’t for the Olympics, warfare would have never ceased and there would have been no compromises on matters that affected the general public.

Modern America is still dependent on the existence of sports. As a country, we have seen the evolution of many affairs and the mending of our country because of the establishment of sports.

The biggest adjustment that sports helped to make was Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey’s effect on the Civil Rights Movement. In the first half of the 20th century, Americans didn’t have the opportunity to indulge in television. Their primary medium for entertainment was the radio, and baseball was America’s favorite pastime.

Therefore, baseball had the capability to win the adoration of the country. In the midst of segregation, which was one of the biggest indecencies in our country’s history, Jackie Robinson was the first black player in Major League Baseball. Although Robinson experienced astounding bigotry, his level of play was undeniable and those same racists and bigots ended up cheering for him.

Robinson was a catalyst and he expedited the speed at which things were moving within the Jim Crow era. Integration began on a baseball field and carried into society.

Equally important is sports’ capability to heal a nation. Almost 16 years ago, on Sept. 11, 2001, our country experienced one of the greatest terrorist attacks to take place on American soil.

Two planes flew into the Twin Towers. Everyone alive can recall where they were that morning and the shock that ensued. But shock wasn’t the only thing we felt.

We were hurt. How could this happen to us? We’re the United States of America, this kind of thing doesn’t happen to us, but 9/11 shook us back to reality. The loss of life was significant, and in this moment, we didn’t know how to react.

But one thing we did realize in this moment was our frailty as humans and our singularity as Americans. We were in it together.

Sports helped us return to our sense of normalcy, briefly distracting us from the concerns of national security. Examples include the Mets game in New York City that day, the excitement that surged once Michael Jordan hinted at a comeback and the Williams sisters playing “in the most-watched women’s tennis final in U.S. Open history.”

There is no greater vehicle than sports to entice unity. It speaks to something much bigger than ourselves: the human will to win.

It doesn’t matter if you’re white or black, democrat or republican or Muslim or Christian. That’s irrelevant. If you can help me win, let’s win. That’s what makes Americans great. That’s what makes America great. We all have an unrelenting will to win, at whatever it is we put our hands to.

To quote a Chicago Tribune column, published five days after 9/11: “Sports are not detached from life. Sports, at their core, are life affirming.”

Featured Illustration: Antonio Mercado

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Nate Jackson

Nate Jackson

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